Sunday, September 6, 2015

One Year Down...

Over a year ago, I hopped on a plane from Miami bound for Barranquilla, Colombia, not knowing what this experience with the Peace Corps would look like. Looking back over this last year, I can definitely say with confidence that it has been one heck of a ride, full of highs and lows (more on that in a little bit).

In order to celebrate this monumental milestone in the life of PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer), we met up in Cartagena for the weekend. 19 of our 23 members were able to attend and mark our one year in style. The grand plan for the night was a gorgeous dinner at El Santisimo, a beautiful restaurant in the old city. Before dinner, MC, Derek, Jessi, and I hit up the beach for a spell, grabbed some Greek food with the Reed's, and then chilled at our hostel for a few hours. After meeting up with others who were staying with us, we got ready for our dinner.

At the restaurant, we partook in a great deal offered there. For about $45, we received an appetizer, entree, dessert and unlimited drinks for 2 hours. Talk about a steal! The food was amazing and delicious (I had red snapper bites, salmon with caramelized onions and asparagus, and a brownie complete with ice cream and hot fudge) and the drinks were just right. The night was completed by two special presentations. Jimmy went around and described each member of our group with an adjective that he felt pertained to them. Jordan, who had asked us all to describe our service in one word, compiled all of these words into a poem that pretty accurately described our experience here in Colombia so far.

Following dinner, we took to the streets of Cartagena and enjoyed a night of dancing, meeting new people, and enjoying a night life that is absent in many of our pueblos. Even though we didn't stay together the entire night, it was still a successful night. I can't express how much this group of people has become my family here throughout this entire experience. Being able to celebrate one year in country together was just another way to strengthen this bond.

Now about those highs and lows...

Committing to living 27 months abroad in a new culture, language, and life style is not an easy task. The normal roller coaster of emotions that comes with this endeavor has not disappointed. It's been one heck of ride and only promises to continue over the next 15 months. From those expected highs (arriving in country, figuring out the crazed bus system, receiving our site placements, becoming official volunteers, moving to site, starting at school, starting projects with the community, visiting other volunteers in their sites, traveling around Colombia, celebrating one year) to those nasty lows (saying goodbye to friends and family back in the states, moving away from host families that had become like family, waiting in limbo for a month or so while awaiting a new site, having members of our close knit group leave early for various reasons, dealing with conflicting interests at site, being subjected to changing landscapes and policies), we've endeared a lot as a group to this point.

To this point, I'm glad that I'm here. This experience has been humbling, eye opening, exciting, and an amazing learning experience about both myself and the Colombian culture. I know that I'm going to come away from my time here as a changed person. The rest of my time here in Colombia will be filled with more hurdles, challenges, and life changing experiences. But I am confident that through all of these, I will continue to grow and change as a person and return to the US as a more complete human being who will be ready to tackle anything.